We Shall Go To The Ball: Branagh’s Cinderella Turns On The Disney Charm

We Shall Go To The Ball: Branagh's Cinderella Turns On The Disney Charm
Credit: Disney

 

Those going to watch Cinderella hoping for a sweet retelling of a classic tale will not be disappointed at all with Branagh’s adaptation, or indeed with the whole cinematic experience.

Frozen Fever is the Disney short that precedes the main film and it is truly lovely. It’s everything Disney’s shorts have become renowned for. It is funny, light and a whole heap of fun. The song takes up the main bulk of the time, which is perfectly okay with me, and we get to see all our favourites returning, including Oaken. Yoo-hoo!

Cinderella itself relies heavily on narration to take us through the film, but I didn’t actually mind that nearly as much as I thought I would. It is heavy on the emotion from the start, when a young Ella must deal with losing her mother and shortly after, her father.

The introduction of Lady Tremaine and her daughters is brilliant. They lift the action, help it to gallop along and bring humour to the movie as well as, of course, making us root for Ella even more.

Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera as Anastasia and Drizella are definitely an enjoyable watch. They bounce off one another so well, and as anyone with a brother or sister can attest; their relationship, although heightened for film, is very true to all who have ever been at war with their siblings.

Branagh has not attempted to shy away from the fairytale here. He brings us the classic story we all know and love, padded out a bit for the big screen, but not afraid of moving along at a gentle pace and delivering all of the magical beauty we would hope for in such a film.

I for one am glad, though those hoping for a little more action or a gripping plot line will be disappointed. Those like me, who believe whole heartedly in the magic of Disney, will love it.

Lily James and Richard Madden are perfectly cast in the lead roles. James really shines both literally and metaphorically and Madden (and his teeth) cut the most perfectly dashing prince. I’ve read various criticisms that have complained that Cinderella waits to be rescued by the king’s servants but you know what? I don’t care.

This is Cinderella, it’s not supposed to be a grand statement on feminism, it’s supposed to be a sweet, romantic tale and let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to be swept off their feet, whatever their gender or sexual preference?

Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother is a joy and the scenes where she transforms the pumpkin, mice and lizards proved very funny to my children. The moment of Cinderella’s great transformation actually drew gasps and plenty of wistful sighs from the audience, and who can blame them? She looked amazing and the entire ball, especially her first dance with the Prince, is the stuff dreams are made of.

Special mention too, to the warming Father/Son relationship we get between the King (Derek Jacobi) and his son, Kit. Madden and Jacobi seem to have a real genuine affection for one another and I was really pleased to see the King and Prince’s relationship played out in this way. When Kit cuddled his dad on the bed as he was dying, it brought tears to my eyes.

However, it is Cate Blanchett that steals the entire film. Her ‘wicked step-mother’ performance is just sublime. Not only is her treatment of Ella despicable, Blanchett also gives us a depth of insight into Lady Tremaine that we’ve not had before. Even the most fleeting of facial expressions makes clear her fear, upset and lack of confidence in herself which causes her to act in such a way. Then she shrugs it all off, puts her mask firmly back in place and moves on.

No, Cinderella is not the most gripping, thrilling film I’ve ever seen but it is a really fantastic and enjoyable take on the classic fairytale and one which I really hope will stand the test of time.

Becky Fuller

Lover of all things theatrical, literature related, musical and Gleeful. Writer, actress, wife and mother.
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